Oregon Composers



Oregon Composers


Portland Youth Philharmonic


Jacob Avshalomov, conductor




Salvador Brotons


Kevin Walczyk


John Van Buren


Bryan Johanson


Jacob Avshalomov




World Premiere Recording




Ruth Saunders Leupold Memorial Recording








With this handful of works by composers with Oregon connections the Portland Youth Philharmonic re-enters the lists of Northwest recording orchestras - among whom it was the first. In the '60s and '70s we recorded ten works by eight composers on the CRI label - to a good press and public reception. Six of those pieces had been commissioned by us under a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation. The rationale at the time was that young musicians could be the best proponents for new music except that often it was beyond their reach technically. To meet this problem we invited composers to produce works which were a little less difficult (not much, as you will hear) but still true to their own style. Six of those early LP recordings have recently been re-issued on CD, again to excellent press notice. Now, as part of the Orchestra's 70th Anniversary celebrations, this new CD presents five premier recordings - our debut with Albany Records.




Salvador Brotons (b. Barcelona, 1959) graduated from the Barcelona Conservatory of Music with honors in flute, composition and conducting. He received his Doctorate from Florida State University. From 1977 to 1985 he served as Principal Flute of the Barcelona Opera Orchestra.




Brotons has composed a considerable number of orchestral, chamber and vocal works, and has received numerous awards for them. Twenty-five of his pieces have been published in Catalonia, England, France and the U.S. His opera, Everyman, was premiered in Tallahassee, Florida.




Since 1988 he has been professor of Music at Portland State University, where he is also conductor of the orchestra.




His work, Obstinacy, Symphonic Movement #7, uses the 12-tone system in a rather liberated fashion. The opening driving rhythms continue throughout the piece. Along the way, lyrical ideas bloom, and the orchestra shines in a variety of textures, contrasts and colors - sometimes the result of aleatoric procedures. The title suggests courage and tenacity - which become heroic.




Kevin Walczyk (b. Portland, Oregon 1964) received his early education in the Northwest, graduating from Pacific-Lutheran University (Tacoma, Washington) in 1987. He then took his M.M. at the University of North Texas, and will have obtained his Doctorate by the time this recording comes out. Walczyk has received a number of honors, including a BMI student composer's award and the G.J. Hexter Award (University of Texas); he has fulfilled a number of commissions for various ensembles.




The Delphic Suite is his first work for full orchestra. It consists of three movements, two of which are included here: the Lament from Troy and Ruler of the Winds. (The second movement, Raid on Ismarus had not been completed at the time of recording.)




The Suite depicts specific events as narrated in Homer's Odyssey, and uses actual fragments of ancient Greek music - the First and Second Delphic Hymns from ca. 250 B.C. In addition, the Lament from Troy uses a later Turkish lament as its second theme. For Ruler of the Winds Walczyk has invented a dance in 7/8 meter which is based on ancient rhythmic and structural practices. This section reflects the celebration by Ulysses and his men at having escaped from the Cave of Polyphemas.




John Van Buren (b. Portland, Oregon, 1952) lives in Germany where he has an active life composing, teaching and organizing concerts of contemporary music. Among the many commissions he has received are works for the Hessian State Opera, in Kassel, and the State Festival of the Arts in Baden-Wurtenberg. In 1992 he was appointed Associate Professor of Music in composition and music theory at the Leopold Mozart Academy in Augsburg.




Of his Mementos he writes: "For me, writing a symphony in this day and age means deliberately dealing with the great tradition of symphonic literature. In addition, it means playing with the preconceptions, knowledge and expectations of the audience - alternately confirming or challenging them - in order to obtain rich possibilities of formal structure. The title Mementos suggests this confrontation with the past.




The material of the first movement, Moderato, is based on the interval of a fourth, presented in three different ways: first, pulsating ripples of sixteenths attempt to cadence; this is followed by a floating, seductive melody which leads to an episode of great rhythmic vitality. This trio of themes is then varied and developed twice more.




The second movement begins with a plaintive melody on the English Horn over long, weighty strides, as in a pavane. This broad motion is interrupted by surging effervescent trills; under the sedate surface we sense a passionate longing.




The motif of a fourth, which appears throughout the work, comes from Liszt's Totentanz, inspired by the "Triumph of Death" frescoes in Pisa, Italy. My Presto refers to part of the same fresco and combines the Liszt motif with a further Italian reference, namely, the saltarello from Mendelssohn's Italian Symphony. The movement begins with a crescendo figure in truncated swells which then accompany much of the ensuing activity. This penetrating insistence reminds us of our mortality: memento mori."




The Symphony was commissioned by the City of Ludwigsburg for the State Festival of Music, 1990.




Jacob Avshalomov (b. Tsingtao, China, 1919) studied with Aaron Avshalomov, Ernst Toch, Bernard Rogers, Jacques Gershkovitch, and Aaron Copland. Mr. Avshalomov has taught at Columbia University (1946-54); Reed College, University of Washington, Tanglewood, and the Aspen Music School. His awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship; a New York Music Critics Circle Award; a Naumburg Recording


Award; and the Ditson conductor's Award. Mr. Avshalomov has conducted the United States premieres of Bruckner's Mass in D; Tippett's A Child of Our Time; Handel's The Triumph of Time & Truth; and Sessions' Divertimento. He has been conductor of the Portland Youth Philharmonic since 1954 and is a past member of the National Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Arts Music Planning Section.




Of his Open Sesame! he writes: "This piece was commissioned in 1985 to celebrate the 15th Anniversary of the North Shore Youth Orchestra of Auckland, New Zealand. To get on their wave-length I turned to some games-pieces I had written for our son David when he was learning to play the piano. These reflected the scamperings, the wistfulness and the mischief of childhood, and they are my take-off points for the orchestral development of the first movement, Escapades.




In 'teenage come Yearnings, that are such a poignant part of the search for self. The search continues in later youth, in quest of self-esteem; this often comes from the esteem of others. Thus, Kudos rings of approbation, recognition and fulfillment; it makes the joyful noise we all hope for.




These are some of the stations leading to a full life; but a password is needed to permit our advance: hence, Open Sesame! The thematic materials of the three movements are interwoven - as they are in life."




Bryan Johanson (b. Yakima, Washington 1953) A noted guitarist as well as a composer, Johanson studied composition with Charles Jones and William Bolcom, and guitar with Alirio Diaz, Christopher Parkening and Michael Lorimer. His compositions have won awards from the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Aspen Music Festival, the Kennedy Center, UCLA, and the Esztergom International Guitar Festival in Hungary.




Recent premieres include his Symphony II, written for the Oregon Symphony, and Nero's Flute, Suite of Imaginary Beings, Dance of the Blue Devil - all for various chamber groups that include the guitar.




Johanson is currently a Professor of Music at Portland State University. The idea for the Cretan Rhapsody, he tells us, came to him during a trip to Crete in 1985. He was impressed with the islanders as a proud, independent people, and was moved by their generous hospitality. The Rhapsody is a subjective portrait of this experience. Premiere performance was by the Oregon Symphony in 1988.




Oregon's Portland Youth Philharmonic is America's first youth orchestra, founded in 1924 and celebrating its 70th Anniversary in the 1993-94 season. A decade ago, a highlight of its 60th Anniversary was the joint concert given with the New York Philharmonic and Leonard Bernstein - enroute to a European tour. In 1992 the Orchestra toured in Japan and Korea. In June 1994 it will make its sixth international tour, to Germany, playing at major venues in Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Augsburg, Munich and Berlin; young soloists from the host cities will be invited to perform with the Orchestra and the Frankfurter Kantorei will appear with it as well.




The Orchestra has over 100 players, age 12 to 22; another 100 are trained in the Preparatory Orchestra. These groups have long been the natural avenue for the musically gifted youth of the region.




The Portland Youth Philharmonic Association maintains a scholarship program, for lessons during the season and for study at top-flight summer schools: the jointly funded scholarship to Tanglewood (by the Berkshire Music Center and the Portland Youth Philharmonic) has been ongoing for 40 years. The Orchestra also holds a competition for piano soloists, and collaborates with choruses, dance groups, art students, language classes and other educational and civic groups. It commissions new works, almost all of which have been recorded.




Six concerts are given each season, for adults and children, in the city's major halls; audiences range from 1,500 to 2,700. In addition the Orchestras do run-out concerts and join hands with students at schools and colleges of the region. Two books by the Conductor give a detailed account of the Orchestra's work and accomplishments: MUSIC IS WHERE YOU MAKE IT, and THE CONCERTS REVIEWED. The perennially rich educational program has attracted a substantial Endowment Fund, which yields some 20% of the annual budget.




In its 70 year history the Orchestra has had only two conductors, Jacques Gershkovitch, the founder, and Jacob Avshalomov - who conducts his 40th anniversary concert this season.




This compact disc is dedicated to the memory of Ruth Saunders Leupold, who played Assistant Concertmaster in the original orchestra of 1924, and whose heirs have partially funded the recording.




-Jacob Avshalomov






Recorded: May 29 and 30, 1993 in Evans Hall, Lewis & Clark College, Portland, Oregon




Producer: Adam Stern




Engineers: John Eargle, JME Consulting Corporation & Al Swanson, Location Recording






Oregon Composers


Portland Youth Philharmonic


Jacob Avshalomov, conductor






Salvador Brotons






Symphonic Movement #7 (10:49)




Kevin Walczyk




The Delphic Suite (11:09)


Lament from Troy (5:57)


Ruler of the Winds (5:12)




John Van Buren




Mementos (21:05)


Moderato (6:46)


Tempo di Pavanne (8:03)


Presto (6:16)




Jacob Avshalomov




Open Sesame! (16:55)


Escapades (3:51)


Yearnings (5:07)


Kudos (7:57)




Bryan Johanson




Cretan Rhapsody (10:06)




Total Time = 72:08